What started as an idea by the National Honor Society Students at St. Augustine School in Richmond, MI became a project the whole school got involved in doing. This is a small school with a big heart that wanted to share how thankful they are for our American Soldiers and Veterans this Thanksgiving. Students ranging from pre-school thru 8th grade gathered all kinds of snacks, personal care items, and more to fill care packages for our country’s service men and women overseas. Sending the packages to the troops is being done with the help of Operation Care Package.
BWCIL’s Project Home, a program for homeless and at-risk veterans, is operated out of the Lapeer office by our case manager, Brianna. Her mom is a teacher at St. Augustine. The project to collect donations started as an honor society project but when Brianna was asked by the teacher how they could do something for veterans and active duty military it didn’t take long for the whole school to get involved. Soon her living room was full of donations of cards, letters, hats, gloves, personal care items, DVDs, snacks, and candy. The students even made laundry soap!
Shown here is some of the items being delivered to Operation Care Package Michigan, with a volunteer member of the organization in her “camouflage angels” t-shirt. They greatly appreciated everything donated, but were very touched by the letters and cards by the kids, and said that the soldiers favorite thing to get is letters from kids.
The Operation Care Package Michigan, a non-profit group, has 170 of these packages being sent out this week. It costs $15 per package to ship, so the donations of items to fill them was greatly appreciated. The group supports their mission with donations and the profits from their newly opened Resale Store in Lapeer, MI. You can find their shop at 606 N. Saginaw or check them out online at ocpmi.com.
Some of the collected items were given to a local transitional housing site for homeless veterans, as well as a few veterans being assisted by the Project Home program at the Lapeer, MI office of the Blue Water Center for Independent Living. The picture shown here is from Brianna’s visit at the Anka Akron Veteran Transitional Housing in Akron, Michigan where 12 homeless veteran currently reside. They were in awe that the kids cared enough about them to collect these things for them. They were also amazed that the kids made homemade laundry soap for them. They said thank you many times.
Brianna was also able to sort out a few needed items to help some of the homeless veterans that she works with through the Project Home program at BWCIL. Overall, a lot of good is being done for many of the people who have fought for, and continue to defend, our country through this project. The students at St. Augustine have done a great job in showing our military heroes just how much they are appreciated this Thanksgiving season!
We at BWCIL would like to echo the appreciation of our military service people and veterans shared by the students of St. Augustine. Thank-you from the bottom of our hearts!
We also want to give our thanks to the students that worked so hard to make this giving project a great success… Fantastic Job!!!
The BWCIL facilitates a Summer Youth Leadership Training:
We run this training in Lapeer and Sanilac County. The training last for two weeks Monday through Thursday. The students meet daily from 9:00 am till 3:00pm.
The Summer Youth Leadership covers a variety of topics: Understanding Diversity, What is a team and teamwork, Leadership and the qualities of a good leader, The importance of volunteering, Living on your own, Resources available in the community, Secondary education and training, Job seeking skills, How to make a positive first impression with employers, American with Disability Act, Values & Goals, and Self Advocacy & Leadership.
The youth also will complete a volunteer projects: Lapeer volunteered at the House of Hope and made blankets for the domestic violence shelter. Sanilac County volunteered at the Baby Pantry at the Sanilac Health Department and made blankets to donate to the baby pantry.
There are several guest speakers throughout the week for the youth to interact with. In Lapeer County they had Community House of Hope , State Senator Mike Green (Jim Mcloskey) , the Health Department, LACADA, Mott Community College, MI Works and MRS. Sanilac County they had MRS, Thumb Works, HDC, St. Clair County Community College, and Great Start Collaborative.
This is a wonderful learning opportunity for the youth; they learn leadership skills, advocacy, how to set goals and planning for their futures.
If you are interested for next summer 2016 the BWCIL will be holding Summer Youth Leadership in Lapeer, Sanilac and St. Clair Counties. Please contact Karen Cook at Karencook@bwcil.org.
In 2013, BWCIL was awarded a Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Since then, BWCIL, with its sub-grantees Disability Network Wayne Co.- Detroit, and Disability Network Oakland Macomb, have had the opportunity to assist over 400 veteran families that are experiencing a housing crisis in the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Lapeer, Sanilac, Tuscola, and Huron.
The SSVF grant awarded to BWCIL assist veterans that are experiencing homelessness or are having difficulty maintaining their housing. Other eligibility criteria includes: low income and having at least one day of active military service with an other than dishonorable discharge.
How did BWCIL, a disability organization, find itself providing veteran services?
Well, if we look at statistics provided by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we can see that 45% of the veterans that are experiencing homelessness are suffering from a mental illness, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Not to mention that one in ten veterans obtain injuries sustained in combat. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reports that 70% of veterans that are homeless also suffer from substance abuse problems.
But the veteran population makes up such a small number of our overall population, there can’t be that many homeless veterans, right? Actually, veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans. 33% of homeless males in the US are veterans. On any given night over 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S.
What is the Department of Veterans Affairs doing to address this issue?
Over three hundred agencies across the United States were awarded Supportive Services for Veteran Families Grants last year. These grants allow for temporary financial assistance for rental assistance, security deposits, utility assistance, and other items needed for general housing stability. VA is also focused on Priority 1 areas, cities that have a high population of homeless veterans (ie. Detroit with 1,500 homeless veterans a year) and has provided additional funding for those areas. With the agencies focused on ending veteran homelessness progress is being made. Cities through out the country (like New Orleans) have already reached functional zero. Which means that no veteran is forced to live on the street and that when homeless does occur it is brief.
What can you do to help?
If you are a veteran or you know of a veteran that is in need of housing assistance, please contact BWCIL. 810-987-9337 or see our website at http://bwcil.org.